Why you should have walking meetings: simply put, because they allow for greater creativity and engagement. Let’s look at how to conduct walking meetings and how they can benefit your organisation.
Walking Meetings Research
Harvard Business Review is a great source of information about walking meetings research (source). In one of their studies with 150 working adults, they found that having meetings while walking instead of sitting increased creativity by 5.25% and increased engagement by 8.5%. While these are not earth-shattering figures, they are still significant because even small increases in engagement can have a positive effect on motivation. This is particularly important for meetings with employees, because they might feel more valued and empowered. A chief executive or other senior manager walking alongside more junior members of the team will send a strong message to the whole organisation about company culture. If you need a real life example, look at how the late Steve Jobs of Apple used to conduct walking meetings.
Benefits of Walking Meetings
If you are organising a walking meeting with a client, it is worth considering that walking has a relaxing effect on both mind and body. This has a knock-on effect on both cognitive functions and stress hormones. In other words, the person you are talking to will be less defensive and more open to suggestions (always bearing in mind that there will be only small increases in feelings of relaxation and comfort while walking).
A Long Tradition of Walking Meetings
Walking meetings can be traced back to Ancient Greece, when Aristotle taught his students while walking.
Modern figures like Steve Jobs kept this tradition alive and he was fond of getting to know people better while taking a stroll.
“Fresh air drives fresh thinking”
How to Conduct Walking Meetings
The best way to conduct walking meetings is to select a small group, to allow side-by-side talking. This allows for all participants to feel equal and ensure their opinions are heard.
The best types of walking meetings are those where a team needs to brainstorm new ideas. Complex negotiations are not suitable for walking meetings. Another factor to consider is whether any employee has a physical disability that would prevent them for accessing an area.
Walking Meetings Tips
Weather is a big factor to consider when organising walking meetings. Therefore, if there is a formal discussion that is likely to become lengthy, indoor meetings are preferable. Therefore, more informal discussions are best – walking meetings are best suited for spontaneous, impromptu get together when you need to test ideas and need a change of scenery.
It is important not to impose a walking meeting, and it is particularly important to give enough notice, even when meetings are more spontaneous.
If some members of staff are wearing shoes that are unsuitable for long walks, impromptu meetings are unsuitable. Waterproof comfortable shoes during winter and lightweight shoes during the summer are preferable. If it’s a particularly hot day and after your walking meeting a member of staff has an important formal meeting they might want to pack a change of clothes. However, walking meetings should not be trekking expeditions and exertion is not advisable.
A leisurely walk with plenty of interesting spots to look at is better than power walking. It also allows for the slower walkers to feel included. These meetings are not a show of stamina or a competition on who’s the fastest.
Ideally, the best group size is small, with two or three people. G20 Summits they ain’t.
Aim for an easy route with no inclines and avoid going off road (see earlier point about clothing). A local park near your offices can be a good option. If there are no green spaces, try at least to walk along quieter streets (a residential area with public right of way, for example) with some interesting buildings to look at.
Did You Know?
Walking in general, whether it is done in a group or by yourself, is an excellent way to beat the dreaded “writer’s block“.
There are also a number of other benefits from walking, particularly weight loss, as discussed in my book Strictly Walk Slimmer.